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1/1/10

Southern Living

Both my parents are from the South, from the early 1700's on my mom's side; my father's side of the family is proving to be a bit more elusive.

My father's family were sharecroppers in Georgia.
He's the baby in the picture, the "young'un" as he'd say. He would be the baby of the family until thirteen years later when Billy came along. He was the first one in the family to graduate from high school.

My grandmother was very short, 4'9" and my grandfather was very tall, about 6'7". The Mutt and Jeff of grandparents. Neither one of them talked very much; they weren't squeezers or pinchers, but we got that they LOVED us.


When I found out they didn't own the house my father had lived in since he was about three months old, I was heartbroken, I was hoping it would be my inheritance. It had no indoor plumbing, no A/C. My grandmother lived in that house for over fifty years and didn't have indoor plumbing until sometime in the seventies. We thought using an outhouse and chamber pots was great fun, but then we didn't have to empty them!

Water came from the well and it was the sweetest, coldest water I've ever tasted. There was a bucket with a gourd dipper next to the sink on the screened in porch. That's where you washed your hands/face, brushed your teeth, got a drink of water. Baths were in the pantry in the galvanized tub, and all three of us children used the same water; water was heated on the wood burning stove.

That wood burning stove could turn out the most amazing food in my grandmother's capable hands. Ham, biscuits, peach cobbler, fresh coconut cake, (where in the world did she get fresh coconuts in rural Georgia?!), squirrel and rabbit stews, all manner of deliciousness came from that stove. She was also a consummate canner, as most women had to be back then. The pantry was full of beautiful jewel like jars of vegetables and fruits; her pickled peaches were my favorite. Once when I was very young, my mother, grandmother and I picked blackberries for pies. My grandmother made my doll her very own real pie in the pie tin from a set of play dishes.

They grew cotton and had a truck garden. My grandmother had her kitchen garden and chickens. I can remember being about three years old and watching her kill a chicken for supper. She had her chopping stump with the axe stuck in the top of it, so it was handy. They had two or three cows, mules, (my dad said he'd spent more time than he cared to remember looking at the rear end of a mule as he plowed fields), and a pig who met its demise every fall ("so fat he'd be blind").
Plenty of feral cats in the barn and one brown hound dog named, appropriately enough, Brownie. I remember him when I was three and he was still alive sixteen years later. Ate nothing but table scraps his whole life and never set foot in the house. Animals are to be outside was my grandmother's philosophy.

You did not lallygag at my grandmother's house, even little hands could do something; snap beans, shell peas, cut out biscuits, weed, pick tomatoes, feed animals. But there was still plenty of time to play with the toy grocery store, run around with Brownie, or stand in the barn wishing the feral cats weren't so I could play with the kittens.

It was a beautiful place, this sharecroppers house sitting on the red Georgia clay, with no indoor plumbing, a bed in the living room (my parents slept there), and a bed under the stairs (where I slept - until my dad told me a story about a snake coming up through a hole in the floor right under that bed).

I miss it and my grandparents.

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